RICHARD Hibbard admits he has been surprised by Dean Ryan's measured approach and believes the director of rugby will help the Dragons players become problem-solvers.

The former Wales and Lions hooker is preparing for his second season at Rodney Parade after being signed from Gloucester by Bernard Jackman last year.

The head coach was dismissed in December and, after forwards coach Ceri Jones held the reins until the end of the campaign, it was Ryan that was given the top job.

The former Bristol, Gloucester and Worcester boss arrived with a reputation for being uncompromising and no-nonsense but hasn't been throwing his weight around at the Ystrad Mynach training base.

"Dean has been very good and one of the biggest things when he came in was that he said he wasn't here to give us quick fixes," said Hibbard.

"Every coach has come in before and said 'you need to fix this and you are sorted' but it isn't as easy as that.

"He is more about building confidence and a lot of it is taking a step back, saying 'you always describe yourselves in a negative way but what do you do well?'. It has been a really good change of mindset.

"I spoke to loads of people and expected Dean to come in as a big man and be imposing, but he has been very level-headed and he has said himself that he has matured."

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Empowerment has been a key theme of the Dragons' summer with Ryan looking for his players to sort out problems rather than looking to the dugout or gantry.

"Ultimately we are the 23 on the pitch, so if anything goes wrong on the pitch that we haven't prepped for then it's down to us to fix it. He has given us the tools to do that," said Hibbard.

"He has been very good for the squad. A lot of rugby these days is player-led and Dean has really thrust it upon us.

"It does massively help, especially in the situations where you are there on your own and have to make a decision, not look up to the stands or ask someone."

Dragons fans are familiar with summer optimism and are desperate for some success after recording just seven league wins over the past two seasons.

Hibbard is confident that the region is on the right track but has urged against expecting too much, too soon.

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"I've been in these rebuild phases a few times and it just doesn't come overnight," he said. "We've got new gameplans, new coaches, Sam Davies as a new general at 10.

"It will take time and don't think there will be a flick of a switch at the start of the season, it's going to be hard work.

"I think Dean is looking further down the line… further away from me! The plan will come to fruition in a few years and we are laying the foundations – and if you don't lay good foundations down then it will all fall down."

Hibbard had a fine first season at Rodney Parade, making 23 appearances, stepping up when Elliot Dee was on international duty and deputising for captain Cory Hill.

"I've got this year and the next and will see it out, my body feels great and the conditioning staff and physios here really look after you. I love a challenge and love to be written off," he said.

"I love the competition coming through. The jersey is never yours and there is the next wolf coming up the hill wanting to hunt you.

"That's what keeps you fresh, keeps you pushing on and keeps you challenging."